I'm not a Hallmark Holiday kind of person, and I don't expect a dozen long-stemmed roses from my hubby like clockwork every Valentine's day, or brunch on Mother's Day (though I'm glad he always remembers to bring home Euphoria truffles - what a guy!). But one thing I learned growing up is that holidays serve to tie a family together, and connect us with the seasons and the circle of the year. It's no mistake either that so many of them happen in the dreariest parts of the winter. My memories of childhood are a wheel with spokes of holiday dinners and red doilies with valentines pasted in the centers, cookie baking and 4th of July picnics by the river. Valentine's Day, with it's focus on love and friendship (and cookies and brightly colored hearts) has always been one of my favorites, not for the mass consumerism pushed by the greeting card companies and florists, but for the sheer sweetness of taking time out to appreciate those you love.
I'm not quite the picture-perfect mom of home and hearth that I'd like to be though. When it comes to crafts and cooking, my talents are thin and disaster often ensues. Case in point, the night before our homeschool group's Valentine's cookie-decorating party had me all Betty Crockered-out, covered in flour and gleefully baking sugar cookies. Being the modern mom, I'd downloaded a recipe for the "World's Best Sugar Cookies" from the internet and was mixing away. There was that little niggling voice in the back of my head that said "Isn't four eggs an awful lot for cookies that are supposed to turn out flat??", but quite unfortunately I ignored it and forged ahead. When I peeked in on the baking cookies, it was to see with horror that they were puffing up like marshmallows in a microwave and no longer resembled hearts in any shape or form. Now if you bake, you'll recall that sugar cookie dough has to be refridgerated for many hours before rolling out, and it was now 8:00 pm.
That is why Valentine's morning saw me rising with the dawn (and the help of my alarm clock and several reminders from my daughter) to start rolling out and cutting another batch of three dozen cookies. All was well that ended well as the second batch (recipe courtesy of the actual Betty Crocker, not some virtual Crocker wanna-be) turned out just fine. The first batch went with us to karate to be handed out to friends who were more than grateful to eat the very tasty non-heart-shaped lumps. And the kids poured on the frosting and the sprinkles at the decorating party, and I realized that it's not really the shape of the heart that counts, it's how much love you generate. I know my kids won't remember me for my culinary talents in their childhoods, but they'll remember the love, sweeter than sprinkles, that drives a mom to rise at dawn and create another family holiday.